Catrin showed Ferrex the dagger the wild Druid had given her. “The demonic spirit inside Agrona is Rhan. Myrddin told me that only I can kill her with this.”
“Give me the dagger. I’ll do it,” Ferrex demanded.
Catrin held the hilt tighter, refusing to give it to him.
“I don’t like this one bit,” Ferrex grumbled. “Last night, I heard Agrona wailing and saw purple mist spill over the barricade, making my bollocks shrivel.”
Even though his concerns mirrored hers, Catrin remained firm. “Only I can face Rhan.”
Ferrex gripped Catrin’s arm and squeezed hard. “Then I’m going with you.”
Catrin finally conceded. “Come with me and we’ll see what happens.”
As they rushed to the fenced enclosure, Ferrex drew his sword. The guard on duty unlatched the fence gate and pushed it open for them to enter.
“Where is Agrona?” Catrin asked.
“She’s in the round house,” the guard answered. “The invisible wall is just a few feet ahead of you.”
“Is Agrona shackled?”
“Yes. She’s shackled to a long chain that gives her full range to roam within the domain. She has a cauldron to cook her own meals over a hearth—a mistake, I fear.”
Catrin sensed Rhan’s essence encircling and urging her into the barricade. She rolled her shoulders to loosen the tightness in her neck. In the night’s dark silence, she recalled the loneliness of being shackled in the disheveled hovel where Agrona had forced her to drink hallucinogenic elixirs. In a moment of weakness under the influence of the drug, Catrin had allowed Rhan’s essence to enter her mind so they could travel to the Wall of Lives. There, they both watched the Past project on Marrock’s life thread. He had decapitated two children and transformed them into wolves for his pack. Catrin had been his next intended victim, but she escaped when her ravens attacked him and pecked his face with their sword-like beaks.
A foreboding chill noosed around Catrin’s throat with the realization that Rhan may have captured a piece of her soul at the Wall of Lives before she could expunge her essence. Taking a deep breath, Catrin shook off the uneasiness, stepped forward, and extended her dagger to discern if the invisible wall still blocked the way.
She felt nothing but air.
More reassured, Catrin waved for Ferrex to follow her, but as she dashed to the dome-shape structure, she heard a loud thud. Glancing back, she saw Ferrex flat on his back just inside the wooden-spiked barricade.
Everything Myrddin had predicted had occurred. Only she could burst through the invisible wall.
And now she was utterly alone.
As Catrin entered the makeshift cell, she noted the central hearth with a cauldron hanging over its flames. Loud popping sounds emanated from a coppery mixture that was boiling over the pot’s black-metal rim. On the other side of the fire was Agrona, her back turned, the cowl of her blood-red cloak covering her head.
Hiding the dagger at her side, Catrin stepped forward. She perceived Rhan’s aura as a viper of hot embers coiling around the hooded Druidess. The viperous, red mist burst in mid-air, reared its head, and struck at her. Catrin lurched back to avert its venomous fangs and frantically thrust the dagger into what looked like black eyes in a bloodstream.
The red vapor disappeared, but something invisible wrapped around Catrin’s throat, cutting off all air. Fighting for breath, she dropped the dagger and clawed at the invisible noose to pull it away. Unable to break the choke hold, she felt panic pump through her veins. With only an empty void in her lungs, her eyeballs felt as if they were ready to burst.
For what seemed like a lifetime, she frantically clawed at the invisible garrote strangling her, but then a surreal calm washed over her like soothing, warm water. Black dots appeared before her eyes as ravens flying into the distance. Cackles echoed, then faded in her ears.
She floated into a sea of darkness.
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